Discussion:
death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., FLA., OHIO
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Rick Halperin
2017-05-31 13:03:36 UTC
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May 31




TEXAS:

Capital murder trial nears for suspect in girl's death


Trial is weeks away in the case of capital murder suspect Isidro Miguel
Delacruz, 26, who is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter
on Sept. 2, 2014.

Delacruz is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday,
before 119th District Court Judge Ben Woodward.

He is slated for another pretrial hearing July 10, before his trial begins on
July 31.

Delacruz had been expected to stand trial earlier this year. That was delayed
in January after Woodward granted a motion from the defense requesting more
time to prepare for trial.

Delacruz has made more than a dozen court appearances since his arrest the day
of the girl's death.

He has been in custody at the Tom Green County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail
since.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Delacruz, who allegedly used a
knife to cut the throat of Tanya Bermea's daughter, Naiya Villegas. A jury
could also choose punishment of life in prison if Delacruz is found guilty.

Delacruz was arrested at his ex-girlfriend's home in the 2700 block of Houston
Street following a domestic violence call about 2:30 a.m. Sept. 2, 2014,
according to police.

According to the arrest affidavit, Delacruz forced his way into Tanya Bermea's
house through a bathroom window at the rear of the home the day of Naiya's
death.

Bermea told police she ran from the house and called for her mother, Jesusita
Bermea, while Naiya remained at home, according to the affidavit.

When the 2 women arrived at the residence Delacruz wouldn't let them inside, so
they left to get Delacruz's mother, Elizabeth Delacruz, to help them get
Delacruz out of the house.

When the 3 women returned, Tanya Bermea said she saw her daughter with a slit
throat and Delacruz covering the wound with paper towels, according to court
documents.

Tanya Bermea told police that when she walked into the home, Delacruz punched
her several times, pushed her outside onto the sidewalk and began to choke her,
according to court documents.

Police found blood throughout the house and outside the home - in the bathroom,
living room and kitchen; on a walkway leading from the front door of the
residence to the street; and on the bedding in Tanya Bermea's bedroom leading
to Naiya's room.

Police searched the area and found a knife, according to court documents, and
indicated that Delacruz had a laceration on the back of his left upper arm.

(source: San Angelo Standard-Times)






VIRGINIA:

Could Travis Ball face death penalty?


The man accused of shooting and killing a Virginia State Police special agent
remains behind bars after a judge denied him bond.

Travis Ball, who was arraigned in court Tuesday morning, is charged with
malicious wounding and firearms charges in connection with last week's shooting
death of Virginia State Police Special Agent Michael Walter.

Why isn't he charged with murder? That question has flooded our social media
pages in recent days. Essentially, the charges against him right now are enough
to keep him locked up. And that's all investigators need as they work to build
a strong case against him.

When police tracked down Ball early Saturday morning in Lancaster County, they
arrested him for malicious wounding and firearms violations. At the time, VSP
Special Agent Walter was still clinging to life.

After Walter was pronounced dead, people expected more serious charges against
the man suspected of killing him. 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone believes
they're coming.

"I fully expect within the next month or so, you will see additional charges
placed that will probably become a lot more serious than malicious wounding,"
Stone explained.

Stone says that as long as Ball is in custody, police and prosecutors are going
to take their time putting together a case against him. It's an investigation
that could lead to the death penalty.

"That's the kind of thing because it involves the death penalty that the
prosecutors are going to be careful about," Stone said. "They're not going to
just do it on a whim, they're going to want to review as much as evidence as
possible and then make a fully informed, intelligent decision as to what to
charge."

Stone says prosecutors could file more serious charges against Ball at any
time, but it's more likely they will take the case to a grand jury.

(source: WRIC news)






NORTH CAROLINA:

Wilmington man held without bail in beating death


A Wilmington man charged with murder after the victim of a May 10 beating died
was denied bail Tuesday during his first appearance in New Hanover County
Superior Court.

The man and his 16-year-old son were charged with murder in the death of
Gregory Gineman, 58, of Wilmington, according to the Wilmington Police
Department.

Gineman was beaten as he and a friend rode bicycles just before midnight in the
200 block of Myrtle Avenue, police said. WPD spokeswoman Linda Thompson said
Gineman had been at New Hanover Regional Medical Center since the beating and
he died there Friday.

The father, Leonard Cleon Pocknett Jr., 43, and his son, Leonard Cleon Pocknett
III, were each appointed attorneys during their first appearance. The son's
bail was set at $1 million.

The father is eligible for the death penalty if convicted. His son is not
because he is younger than 18.

Both Pocknetts were arrested May 24 by U.S. Marshals and originally charged
with assault, according to the police department.

A 911 caller who witnessed the assault that critically injured Gineman said he
did not know why the beating happened.

"This is scaring the hell out of me," the caller stated. "He is bleeding pretty
bad. They beat the hell out of him."

The caller told a dispatcher the victim was unconscious on his right side,
bleeding from above his eye, his ear and mouth and his face was swelling
quickly.

"Just 2 fists," he answered the dispatcher who asked if any weapons had been
used. "They did a good job on him. It all happened so fast. I don't even know
why the guys did it."

The man said he and the victim had been riding their bicycles down Park Avenue
and had headed toward home on Myrtle Avenue when an SUV began to follow them.
The caller stated the victim said something to someone in the vehicle and the
attack ensued.

"He said, 'What they heck are you following us for?' and they just jumped out
and started pummeling him," the caller recounted.

He added that he only saw 1 man assault the victim.

Nearly 7 minutes into the call a police officer arrives on the scene and in the
background of the 911 call can be heard saying, "He's not breathing."

The 911 caller said the "big guy' committed the assault. Jail records show
Pocknett Jr. is 6-foot-5 and nearly 300 pounds.

According to arrest records, the Pocknetts live a half mile away from where the
incident occurred.

N.C. Department of Public Safety records show that Pocknett Jr. has 2 prior
convictions out of Wayne County: assault on a female in 2006 and willful or
wanton injury to real property in 2010.

(source: Wilmington Star News)






FLORIDA:

ted killer files motions to stop sentencing in death of Orange County woman


The lawyer for Juan Rosario has filed a motion to try and stop Rosario's
sentencing as part of a last-ditch effort to avoid the death penalty.

A jury last month convicted Rosario of beating Elena Ortega, 83, and then
burning her alive inside her home in 2013.

Sentencing for Rosario is supposed to begin Wednesday, but the death penalty
decision is like a whole separate trial being held at the Orange County
courthouse.

There are still legal problems surrounding Florida's death penalty, as well as
the issue of Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala's anti-death
penalty stance.

"The lower courts have no right to decide differently than has the Florida
Supreme Court," said Brad King, acting state attorney for the 9th Circuit.

Prosecutors and the defense argued over the latest debate in death penalty
cases. There is a question of whether the circumstances that elevate a murder
to capital murder have to be listed in an indictment. Rosario's indictment
didn't list them.

Some believe a recent Supreme Court decision said it should have. That is why
the defense wanted Rosario's sentence postponed.

"I am a lowly trial judge, and I do not have the authority to grant your
motion," said Judge Leticia Marques, with the 9th Circuit.

Ayala is suing Gov. Rick Scott to get back the 23 murder cases he reassigned to
King after she declared her stance on death penalty cases.

"If the Supreme Court comes back and says he overreached, then death is off the
table, because she filed notice not to seek death in this case," said Roger
Weeden, Rosario's defense attorney.

The Supreme Court would have to intervene before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the
sentencing phase is scheduled to begin.

(source: WFTV news)






OHIO:

Donna Roberts is the only woman on Ohio's death row----2020 execution date set
in Howland murder case


The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence handed down to a woman
convicted of plotting to murder her husband in Howland in2001.

The court affirmed the sentence of Donna Roberts, who along with her lover
Nathaniel Jackson, were convicted of killing Robert Fingerhut in Howland
Township.

Both were sentenced to death for scheming to kill Fingerhut so Roberts could
collect more than $500,000 in life insurance proceeds.

Roberts is scheduled to be executed on August 12, 2020.

According to court records, Roberts was having an affair with Jackson before he
was sent to prison for a separate offense.

Investigators say the 2 communicated while Jackson was in prison.

When Jackson was released on December 9, 2001, Roberts was waiting to pick him
up.

2 days later, Robert Fingerhut was found dead on the kitchen floor of his home.
He had been shot several times.

In addition to letters and phone records gathered as evidence, investigators
say Roberts bought Jackson a mask and gloves to wear while committing the
crime, even allowing him into the home where the murder occurred.

Roberts was convicted of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications,
aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary

In Tuesday's ruling, the justices rejected Roberts' claim that her sentence
constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

This is the 3rd time Roberts has appealed her death sentence to the Ohio
Supreme Court.

The Court first sent Robert's case back to the trial court after learning that
the judge had allowed the prosecutor's office to participate in drafting the
judge's sentencing opinion.

The court returned Roberts' case to the trial court for a 2nd time in 2013
after concluding that the trial court hadn't considered potentially mitigating
information Roberts gave at her 1st re-sentencing hearing.

The Supreme Court ordered the trial court to consider the entire record when
deciding again whether the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating
factors beyond a reasonable doubt.

A new judge conducted the re-sentencing because the judge who originally heard
Roberts' case had died.

The new judge determined that death was the appropriate penalty in the case.

In her appeal, Roberts maintained that the new judge couldn't properly consider
all the evidence in the case because he wasn't present for any of her trial and
didn't hear her statement firsthand.

In its latest ruling, the Supreme Court found that the trial court judge's
decision was proper because he reviewed a written transcript of the case.

The Ohio Supreme Court has already refused to reconsider its earlier decision
to uphold Nathaniel Jackson's sentence, which is scheduled to be carried out on
July 15, 2020.

Roberts is the only woman on Ohio's death row.

(source: WFMJ news)

*********************

Court affirms sentence of Howland woman on Ohio's death row----Donna Roberts
was sentenced to death for the third time in 2014 but appeared the decision in
February


The Ohio Supreme Court has affirmed the death penalty of a Howland woman, who
conspired to kill her ex-husband.

Donna Roberts is the state's only condemned female killer on death row.

She was sentenced to death for the 3rd time in 2014 but appealed the decision
in February.

Roberts was accused of planning her ex-husband's murder with a boyfriend in
hopes of collecting insurance money. Robert Fingerhut was killed in the
couple's Howland home.

Her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson, also was sentenced to death in the 2001
slaying.

Writing for the Court majority, Justice Terrence O'Donnell explained that
Roberts helped Jackson plan Fingerhut's murder in a series of letters and phone
calls while Jackson was in prison on an unrelated charge. She actively
participated with Jackson in the killing by purchasing a mask and gloves for
him and allowing him into the home, evidencing prior calculation and design,
O'Donnell said.

Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, Patrick F. Fischer and R. Patrick
DeWine, joined Justice O'Donnell's opinion.

The Court also pointed out that although Roberts expressed sadness for
Fingerhut's murder, she never accepted responsibility for it and denied her
scheme to kill Fingerhut, "notwithstanding overwhelming evidence to the
contrary."

The Court concluded the death penalty was appropriate and proportionate to the
death sentence imposed on Jackson.

(source: WKBN news)


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